The majority of this episode focuses on the battle between Ivar and Lagertha’s forces, with only a few interludes to Iceland and England. While I understand the inclusion of the interludes, I think this episode would have been stronger as a whole without them. At this point I’m genuinely starting to feel that Floki’s plotline is going nowhere, and with him being the only familiar character on the scene, there isn’t a great deal to hold our attention there. Some people still feel he has misled them, while others feel Floki is in the right. The only difference in this episode is that a temple to Thor is being built ahead of shelter for the settlers. At least in England we know the other characters, so despite the interlude being superfluous, we know it will matter later. Alfred feels like Aethelwulf doesn’t listen to him–that was all we learned this episode.
As I stated above, the majority of the episode is devoted to the lead up to the battle and the subsequent fight. Before the groups leave their respective towns, we see two important developments: Astrid, despite her pregnancy, insists on going to fight, and Torvi leaves her children with Ubbe’s wife. Given how crazy the woman is, I don’t know if that was such a wise decision.
Our two groups meet on an open field outside of Kattegat to attempt to parlay; Lagertha is still reluctant to start a fight that would put the sons of Ragnar against one another. They at first exchange hostages: Vitsek goes with Lagertha, while Halfdan goes with Harald. It gives both brothers a chance to explain their side of the situation to their now enemies…and why they still won’t switch. I think most interesting, of course, is Halfdan’s commitment to Bjorn–even if it means he might die by his brother’s hand, he would rather uphold his oath to his friend.
The next day the groups meet again, and it seems that Ivar might actually be willing to negotiate, as he says he doesn’t want to fight his brothers. Of course, it’s all bullshit; he simply states that Bjorn and Ubbe are no longer his brothers and he’s going to kill Lagertha. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what the point of the parlay was, except to perhaps raise tension? Or to show that Ivar is even more unstable than previously thought?
When the battle finally begins, Astrid and Ivar are far off field, waiting; it seems Ivar has become indecisive now that things have finally begun. At every turn, Ivar’s forces are outflanked; Vitsek and his men are attacked by the Sami in the forest, while Herald’s men are attacked on two sides by Bjorn and Lagertha. Things quickly become chaotic and when help is called for, Ivar refuses to answer. Vikings always excels in their battle scenes, and this one is no different. The scenes manage to show how brutal and disgusting fighting was back then, with hacked off limbs, and people screaming and dying everywhere. As Herald calls the retreat, Heahmund ends up falling despite his best attempts at fighting. He is wounded, and Lagertha takes him prisoner, feeling there is something important about him.
All in all, this was an incredibly strong episode; I feel the show has found its footing again after floundering in the back half of last season, and I’m truly glad to see it.